5 Ways Strategic Social Media Can Help Small Businesses

BrianSolis
Brian Solis Principal, Altimeter Group

Posted on September 23rd 2012

5 Ways Strategic Social Media Can Help Small Businesses

I often write about enterprise organizations and global brands…essentially big businesses. This is the first in a series dedicated to small businesses.

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media strategy is that only the big brands and enterprise organizations can afford success. The impression is bigger businesses have unlimited resources, people and budgets to execute on all new ideas. This is simply not true. Like in anything, people are focused on their jobs as they exist and anything new that comes along, well, it’s met with prejudice.

The truth is that small businesses possess an enormous advantage over big businesses—the ability to recognize and adapt to new opportunities much faster, with far less investment, and with a greater capacity to learn and improve at will. So when it comes down to how a small business should consider how to employ a social media strategy, why would we look to big business for inspiration?

a) Because they have millions of friends, fans, and followers?
b) They are getting a ton of Likes, Tweets, and Youtube views?
c) They are always the source of the best content – videos, posts, infographics, designs
d) None of the above

The answer is “d” – none of the above.

Why?

Because most businesses, large and small, have not answered that very question, why? Why would we go on social networks? Why would customers connect with us there? Why would we gain any value out of online engagement? Why would any of this impact my business?

At the root of the problem, today’s social media programs start with the technology in mind and not the solution in mind. Many businesses jump into Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+, et al, without thinking through opportunities or customer expectations and experiences.

To help get you started and to leap frog even the most advanced businesses in social media, I’ve outlined 5-step approach. Working through it will assist in the development of a relevant social media strategy that allows you to earn customer attention, relationships, and loyalty in places that only expand your reach and impact.

5 Ways to Develop a Strategic Social Media Presence

1. Listen, Search, Walk a “Daily in the Life” of…

Take some time to search Google, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google+ for related keywords and geographies to your business.

Take notes of what you find…capture the trends, insights, activity, and the players that matter to you

Document the 5W’s + the H.E.: Who, What, When, Why, How, and to What Extent – it’s the only way to work toward ROI

Prioritize networks

Recognize patterns and behavior

Observe trends and themes

Tip: Also pay attention to what people aren’t saying or sharing

2. Define Your Online Brand: What do you want people to see and appreciate?

Take a step back to think about the value you can add based on who you are and the expertise or the unique service or solution that only you can provide

Define why you are different than your competition

Design the professional brand and the persona you would like to convey online

Describe “your” experience: What is it that you want people to see or think when they find you in social networks

Portray your brand, persona and the experience in your profiles

Tip: Don’t sell or overly promote…

3. Develop a Social Media Strategy: Make your presence matter

Write a vision statement for how you will use social media to build relationships, a community around your value proposition, and how social media will enable your strategy

Describe what social media success will look like

Customize your presence, goals, and what success looks like in each network

Create an editorial program that reinforces your value, your business, and your goals within each network

Understand what format to you love using AND what seems to be the formats your customers prefer

Curate relevant and interesting content that reflects your professional and personal interests

Tip: Find the balance between personal and professional activity online, it can’t be ALL business

4. Build and Invest in Your Community: Participate and earn affinity to become a trusted resource

Share insights in the communities that matter to your business and reach beyond the friends, fans, and followers you already have

Identify and talk to local online influencers who can help you spread your expertise and value

Ask and answer questions in your communities and across other vibrant communities hosted by others

Maintain a valuable and timely presence

Create a “linked” network of resources: Link to or recommend people who can also help your customers

Tip: Invest proportionally in social media, search engine optimization/digital and your real world activities

5. Learn: Repeat steps 1-5 over time to stay relevant as technology and behavior evolves

Learn from everything to improve experiences and your overall strategy

Ask your community what they’re looking for and how you can better help

Monitor activity using social media listening tools around you and in your areas of focus to stay on top of trends, themes, and needs

Tip: Looking at activity through the lens of your customers and walking in their shoes will always keep you on target in your strategy

Image Credit: Shutterstock

BrianSolis

Brian Solis

Principal, Altimeter Group

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture. His current book, Engage, is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to build and measure success in the social web.

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Comments

Colin Williams
Posted on September 23rd 2012 at 1:19PM

Good post Brian

Personally I believe the web and social media give small business and unfair advanatage compared to the corporates. It is easier than ever for small businesses to develop niche markets and/or build a strong local following which is difficult for the large corporates to replicate. 

lisusha1578
Posted on September 24th 2012 at 2:59PM

Dear Brian,

What do you mean by #4: Identify and talk to local online influencers who can help you spread your expertise and value? Do you mean, for example, reaching out to the likes of you? But how do you interest them to "spread your expertise and value" without over-pitching your company/organization?

Marcellini
Posted on September 24th 2012 at 4:54PM

Great post, Brian! I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your small business series. 

Another great addition to a small businesses strategic social media tool box is using a social media aggregator to either help curate content from industry thought leaders, competition, etc; or as a way to boost their social content they're pushing out to their audiences. An easy to use social media aggregator, like Postano, allows you to instantly share content you like with your audiences via social sharing buttons- keeping their social media fresh, up to date and engaging. 

BrianSolis
Posted on September 24th 2012 at 6:57PM

Excellent.  Thank you for sharing!

Social Jumpstart
Posted on September 24th 2012 at 6:17PM

So great to see Brian Solis sharing his wisdom for the small business segment. We've expanded on his first point on Listening on our own blog as well.

BrianSolis
Posted on September 24th 2012 at 6:56PM

Cheers!

jammy18
Posted on September 29th 2012 at 8:52AM

Glad to know that social media can boost up small businesses also. Earlier there was a mindset that social media marketing is for the elite class only. I think this post can help in changing this viewpoint.